General Question

lemming's avatar

How long does it take to learn how to read music?

Asked by lemming (3913 points ) April 30th, 2011

I want to learn how to play the piano. I have a nice keyboard at home and I can play a few songs off, but I want to learn how to be able to read music and play complicated pieces…is it like learning a new language? Will I need to pay for years worth of piano lessons or can I do it by myself? Is it too late to learn it well at 23?

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16 Answers

Joker94's avatar

I don’t think it’s ever too late. I’m younger than you, but I had pretty late start myself on piano. Learning to read music isn’t too, too difficult in my opinion. I learned a lot of basics in about two or three weeks.

Having learned reading a long time ago, I think it can be self-taught. You might want to go to a music shop and talk to the clerks about picking a starter book. It isn’t really like learning a new language, per se, it just takes some devotion. I wouldn’t recommend starting with a “complicated piece” off the bat, because some of it is truly God-awful to read.

Just take it easy at first, and in time you’ll be able to do complicated pieces with relative ease. Best of luck!

Jeremycw1's avatar

If you are dedicated to learning how to read sheet music, you can do it pretty easily. Just put in the time, and never stop practicing. Lessons would definitely help, if you wanted to spend the money. It can be frustrating at times, but stick with it. Music is one of the greatest gifts you can posses.

dxs's avatar

It’s been 11 years for me and I can not sight read fluently. I could play thru a song, but with some stops. Some people I know are just born to sight read, and it amazes me. I’m not. I also keep in mind that I had to teach myself, so that may be taken into consideration as well. I’d give it a year or two.

MissAnthrope's avatar

If you commit to learning and practice, it shouldn’t take too long. I mean, there are only so many notes to memorize! If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you could learn it really quickly.

MissAnthrope's avatar

No.. I was pretty much fluent in reading music after a month or two of wind band at college. Maybe I’m a prodigy, but I highly doubt it… so, I figure if I can do it, you probably can, too. ;)

lemming's avatar

Thanks @MissAnthrope and everybody else! :)

gailcalled's avatar

It is easy to learn to read it. No pronunciation, grammatical, orthographical or idiomatic issues. Everything is straightforward. Middle C is always on the same white key of the piano. An octave is always an octave; a major scale is always..well, you get the point.

Sightreading music is a different issue. That means being able to move your eyes from the music to the keyboard fast enough to play an acceptable version of the piece on the first try. It also requires that you have been playing long enough for your fingers to have acquired some muscle memory.

What’s the span for a C major chord? A run of an A minor scale? At some point, your fingers can do it automatically with your eyes shut.

jonsblond's avatar

It only took a month or two for me also. You either have what it takes or you don’t. Simple as that.

Kardamom's avatar

For me, I couldn’t learn it at all. Whenever I heard a song, I would memorize (not on purpose) but that is because I have the tendency to be able to play by ear, even though I have no idea how that phenomenon actually works, everyone on my Dad’s side has it. So when I tried to “read” the notes, either I couldn’t do it at all, or I could play the song and not be able to follow along with the notes, because I “knew” the song and how it went. It’s like those 2 concepts compete with each other in my brain.

The only way I can explain it, how it works (or rather doesn’t work) for me is if I was reading a book in Spanish, but saying it all out loud in English. I can’t translate and read and speak at the same time.

blueiiznh's avatar

Reading music does not take all that long to understand. Month or so.

It is being able to read it fluently and quick enough to play the piece at the right tempo.

With lessons you might master some in 6 months to a year depending on how technically challenging and how much effort is put in along with how much natural gift you have.

Practice, practice, practice practice

dxs's avatar

@MissAnthrope Reading music for a wind instrument (I’m making assumptions of what you played) is easy as it is one-lined. Piano requires two lines and is harder. Obviously the harder the music and the more notes you have differeniated between how quickly you will read it. I can sight read my onelined instruments’ music easily.

KateTheGreat's avatar

Reading music came very easily for me! If you practice enough and actually study it, it helps a lot.

AshlynM's avatar

You need determination and time to learn to read music. There is no rule on how long it takes one to read music. You’re constantly learning with each new piece, especially the high notes. You need to practice scales and learn to play softly and loudly.

Anyone can learn to read music, young or old. It’s all about mindset.

gailcalled's avatar

@AshlynM: Why is playing the high notes on the piano any different from any other notes?

JBurns's avatar

It’s never too late to learn how to read music notes and chords. However, every person’s learning curve is different. It may take a few weeks for some, while a few months for others. Maybe you can go to a music school and talk to a music instructor to help you out. This is, in my opinion, the ideal way of doing it instead of learning on your own.

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